GREG JAYNE: Of champagne dreams and court-storming wishes

Greg Jayne: Commentary

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 

In truth, it was reminiscent of the High Five'n White Guys.

You know, the guys from the sketch comedy "Almost Live!"? The guys who would exuberantly celebrate even the most mundane occurrences with an awkward high-five?

OK, maybe, you don't. I realize that one comes from deep within the Obscure Reference File.

But the point is that the champagne-soaked celebrations by the St. Louis Cardinals and the Baltimore Orioles following their wild-card playoff victories Friday seemed just a bit, um, over the top. They seemed just a bit forced and more than a bit disingenuous.

Champagne in the clubhouse following a one-game victory in the wild-card playoff? Seriously? For reaching the final eight of the baseball playoffs?

That's the equivalent of an NBA team popping the corks following a first-round playoff series victory. Wouldn't that be a bit much?

Friday's celebrations, to me, appeared to be orchestrated by Major League Baseball in an effort to drive home the importance of the new wild-card playoff game. Baseball is desperate to sell this new format as somehow meaningful, and somebody had to order that the lockers be covered in plastic and champagne be available in the winning locker room.

I can't imagine it was a general manager or a team president who said, "If we win, this will be monumental! Let's celebrate like we won the World Series!"

And yet, baseball's over-the-top celebration was merely part of what seems to be a larger trend in sports.

I blame Harry Carson. The 1986 New York Giants are most frequently credited with — or, more properly, blamed for — initiating the practice of dumping Gatorade over their coach toward the end of a victory, and Carson is most frequently cited as the culprit.

Some 26 years later, what once was a rather spontaneous and enjoyable celebration of triumph has devolved into a trite and tired ritual devoid of meaning. Kind of like Presidential debates.

And then there's the overwrought practice of fans storming the court (or the field) after a victory. Once upon a time, this was reserved for meaningful upsets and significant victories — surprise outcomes that were just so exciting that the fans couldn't contain themselves.

Now, it has become the realm of mid-January basketball victories over Podunk U, as students act with the knowledge that storming the court is likely to land their school on SportsCenter.

In fact, a YouTube search of "Storm the Court" unveils 5,650 videos. Included are such unforgettable moments as Binghamton beating Maryland-Baltimore County to earn an NIT berth, and San Diego State beating St. Mary's in the NIT.

When anything involving the NIT leads fans to storm the court in joy, it's time for those fans to re-evaluate their lives.

Which probably is the point to be gleaned from all of these over-the-top celebrations. Perhaps the champagne-poppers and the Gatorade-dumpers and the fans would be wise to heed an ancient nugget of sports wisdom: Act like you've been there before -- and like you expect to be there again.

Otherwise, you risk becoming a parody.

Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at greg.jayne@columbian.com. Follow him on Twitter: @col_gjayne